Feature | Jan 01 2020

The Last Fight: How easy is it to finish on top?

Only a select few fighters have been fortunate enough to retire in their prime following a victory. Elliot Worsell investigates the boxer's escape plan
The perfect finish. Calzaghe concluded his career fighting American legends Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

HE knew it was the end before it had even begun. He knew it was the end because it felt different to the beginning, and the middle, and how it felt last week. Gone was the 21-year-old who won the world title a decade earlier. Gone, too, was the 31-year-old who had recently been hitting times and heights of old in training, convincing himself his next opponent was tailor-made for him.

Now struck by a feeling too unusual and strong to ignore, Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini, moments before battle, chose not to. He turned to his assistant trainer, Ted Fagan, in their changing room and outed himself, first as doubtful, then prematurely retired. He told Fagan he didn’t want to be there anymore. He told him he didn’t want to do it – fight, pretend – anymore.

“What?” said Fagan, incredulous.